A central figure in the rise of religious literature in the vernacular languages of north India in the early modern era was the poet-saint Sūrdās, whose poetry played a defining role in the spread of popular devotion, bhakti, to Kṛṣṇa, one of Hinduism s most well known deities. A salient feature in several of the poems ascribed to Sūrdās that depicts the iconic flute-playing Kṛṣṇa is that the flute itself appears as a female persona – Muralī. This thesis is the first study to ask why the flute appears as a woman and how the motif evolves throughout these poems. These questions are important because they engage with an understudied aspect of a central Hindu deity in of its most popular and defining representations, and because they offer a sharpened focus on the concepts of gender and devotion that deity might be perceived to embody. Utilising a theoretical outlook informed by performativity, intertextuality and gender studies, the study maps the various appearances of the female flute in both the early and late layers of the literary tradition connected with Sūrdās. It concludes that Muralī, the female flute, both functions as a religious symbol that encapsulates a general tension in the image of the flute-playing Kṛṣṇa between dichotomies such as nature and culture, gendered and ungendered, and as a rhetorical figure through which the poetry of Sūrdās can discuss competing positions on the dynamic between gender norms and religious imperatives.